There is no shame in apologizing. If you are a salesperson, or even the President, and you have made a mistake, there is no shame in saying, “I am sorry.” Saying, “I’m sorry” saves sales. And doing it in those words, is not only empathetic, but it also shows ownership and is human. In the course of your selling, you will make mistake. Expect it. Personally, or by collective responsibility as in the case of ‘historical injustices’ it will happen. Get ahead of the situation by owning up to the error and increase your chances of regaining control of the sale. Delay in apologizing and run the risk of losing the sale (and customer) forever. And why? Because you have lost the trust. And unless you are a spy, you’re doomed. Let’s unpack the foregoing.

Read: Take it personally but remember it’s not personal.

Identifying mistakes: a salesperson’s reality

A mistake is anything you do that aggrieves the customer and is your fault. Different kinds of mistakes can happen in selling. For example, “Niambie tukifika kwa Nyambura,” the passenger asks the matatu tout. Unfortunately, the tout forgets and several stops past kwa Nyambura, sees the passenger and his eyes pop out. “Haiya. Nilisahau. Pole sane.”  (I forgot. I’m sorry.”). Others include, breaking a promise. “I’m sorry, your debit card took much longer than I had promised you.” Others include, talking too much, bringing the wrong order, releasing thousands of vehicles with faulty wiring, or, tragically, even showing no remorse for children and innocent, unarmed youthful protestors being killed violently. It could also be the medical insurance cover was never activated despite client paying premium in full.”

Saying, “I’m sorry” saves sales -The importance of timely apologies

But it matters when you apologize. The longer you take, the less genuine it sounds. The problem with not apologizing while the iron is hot is that you engage in firefighting. “We are still working on the issue and will get back to you shortly,” you tell the customer. Meanwhile, you are like a duck in the pond. Peaceful above water but paddling furiously beneath, just to keep afloat.  As for the customer, he is seething with anger and possibly drawing and acting on conclusions which are emotional and not factually based. And in the process, making a bad situation, worse. Now, if only you had said, “I’m sorry we have taken much longer than anticipated. The truth is, your order was skipped in error. Please give us an extra 15 minutes and I promise your order will come. I know this is not what you want to hear but I’d rather be honest with you. Is this, ok?” The dejected customer may respond sarcastically with, “Do I have a choice?” but his anger starts subsiding; he feels listened to, respected. And you can stop firefighting and take advantage of the 15 minutes.

Read: How to overcome shame in selling – as business owner and seller

Saying, I'm sorry saves sales

Apology and Reconciliation: Turning mistakes into opportunities

“But the customer will become angry when they know the truth? Or worse, I can lose the customer for good.” Maybe, maybe not. If the mistake is yours and you apologize, your job is done. The choice to cool down or walk away is not yours-it’s the customer’s.  If they choose to walk away, theyn they will. And quitey likely they had iteded to all along and just neded an excuse. More likely thouh they will will give the typical human response to a heartfelt aplogy- forgivness. And not it won’t be verbaslied as such but spelt out in word like, “Do I have a choice,” or, “I’ve already wasted 15 minutes; now you want me to waste another 15?”, or, “Sasa, umenipitisha na nilikuambia, tukifika kwa Nyambura uniambie. Hata nichachelewa,”

Saying, “I’m sorry” saves sales : The case of Julius Nyerere

And this is where, you come in and make transformative amends, in addition to the apology, to recover the sale. “It is unfortunate that the unarmed children and youth like (their names) will killed by rogue officers. This happened under my watch and is contrary to what I had promised you. The officer in question has been identified and will face the full force of the law.”  Or, as exemplified by the later President of Tanzania Julius Nyerere. “Poleni. ndugu zangu Watanzania. Niliamni ujamaa utatufaa lakini ukweli ni kwamba nimefeli. Kwa hivyo sina budi ila kung’atuka kiti hiki cha Rais wenu.” (I’m sorry my plan for socialism failed. I take full responsibly for this and so resign as your President.) This action not only saved his reputation as failed President, it escalated it to continental statesman.

Other examples

“I’m sorry your cab didn’t arrive on time, yet you had paid. It was our fault. I’ve sent another one directly and is a premium one at no extra cost to you.” Or, “Wacha tutarudi na wewe. Hatukawii mwisho.” (Seeing as we are at the end of the trip, we will go back with, and drop you off kwa Nyambura at no extra charge to you.) It could also be, “We have since discovered that there was a wiring problem in the vehicle of this model and we are recalling it.” Another way could be: “Here’s is your pizza, Sir. We’ve added two more slices.” A final example: “We shall refund you the full expenses you made for the inpatient expenses. Please send us the receipts.”

Avoiding the habit of apologizing

Of course, this does not mean you make making mistakes a habit simply because you think saying. “I’m sorry,” will heal all wounds all the time. It won’t if anything, it’ll work against you. “Those guys are jokers. They can’t do anything right. It’s almost as if they take pride in making mistakes. They take saying. “I’m sorry,” like a career.”

Embrace the power of a sincere apology

Stoop to conquer. There is no shame in apologizing. Saying, “I’m sorry” saves sales If you are a salesperson, or even a President, and you have made a mistake, there is no shame in saying, “I am sorry.”

Read: Drop your pride, sell to the ‘irrelevant’ too


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